The last 12 months in MMA have delivered some of the best moments the sport has seen in quite some time.
We had spectacular fights, controversies and new outlets in the sport.
And now that the new year is upon us, here’s what I want to see happen in mixed martial arts in 2019.
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Conor McGregor vs. Georges St-Pierre showdown has to occur
Here you would have the biggest draw in the history of mixed martial arts in McGregor and the man who helped thrust the UFC into the mainstream and became one of the biggest pay-per-view attractions for the company in St-Pierre.
St-Pierre told Sporting News back in October that he would be interested in facing McGregor because it would mean a lot for his legacy along with it being a big-money fight. McGregor has been silent on the subject, but at this stage of the game, the original champ-champ is only interested in highly lucrative bouts. St-Pierre checks that box and a battle between the two is without question the only PPV the UFC could put together that would break the reported 2.4 million buys McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov generated at UFC 229. And who doesn’t like money more than McGregor?
Neither could utter a word and every financial record for a UFC event would be shattered. St-Pierre has been going back and forth on another return and McGregor looks to be staying around for a while. Park the Brink’s truck at their respective homes and give them what they want.
Jon Jones stays out of trouble
Fans want to see the best fighters in the world competing. There’s no one better than Jones, but he has only fought only one time each year since 2014 because of a litany of issues that include arrests and failed drug tests. Jones has said he wants to be active in 2019, and he is off to a good start; he’s scheduled to face Anthony Smith (pending getting a license to fight in Nevada) at UFC 235. Hopefully, “Bones” keeps it together, because the sport is better when he’s inside the Octagon.
AJ McKee getting a world title shot
McKee is arguably the most exciting prospect in Bellator. He’s undefeated in 13 fights with nine wins coming by stoppage. The best part is that McKee is only 23 and has plenty of growing to do. And yet, after his first-round submission win over Daniel Crawford at Bellator 212, no calls were made for McKee getting a shot at featherweight champion Patricio Freire even though he has been dominant in every performance.
What more does the “Mercenary” need to do? McKee is a guy a company can build around, but it can’t do that unless he’s given an opportunity to succeed. LetGs get this done, Bellator.
The first trade in MMA history took place in October when the UFC sent former flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson to ONE for its welterweight titleholder, Ben Askren. The move made sense because the UFC truly didn’t know how to market Johnson and Askren deserves to test himself against the best guys in the world at 170 pounds. It was a win-win for all parties involved.
Who wouldn’t want to see Michael Chandler going from Bellator to the UFC for Nick and/or Nate Diaz? The lightweight division in Bellator isn’t what it used to be and allowing Chandler to test himself in the shark tank that is the UFC lightweight division would show how good the three-time 155-pound champ really is. Going to Bellator would allow one or both of the Diaz brothers to have the freedom to truly express themselves and get paid handsomely in the process. Or how about seeing ONE send one of its biggest stars, women’s atomweight titlist Angela Lee, to the UFC for Anderson Silva?
The scenarios are endless, and if they make sense, the promotions should work together to do what is not just best for them, but for also the fighters, because that is what’s most important. They should want them happy, not angry with where they are plying their craft.
Fewer interim title fights
It seems like every other UFC card features an interim title being on the line. The rationale is because the UFC has to have a title fight as the main event of a pay-per-view and the champion has been pulled from the show for one reason or another. Title bouts are nice and all, but creating an interim title comes off as cheap. The fighters know it means nothing. Yes, it guarantees a main event and more money, but the secondary tag means nothing to them. Just make the fights. The fans don’t care if a belt is up for grabs. They just want to see two people stand in the middle of the cage and put on an exciting contest.
Fighters making more money
Who wouldn’t like to be better compensated for what they do for a living? For the risks they take inside the cage, fighters are vastly underpaid. Only a select few make more than $1 million a fight and a good chunk make less than what would amount $40,000 a year after taxes, paying the training team, managers and other expenses.
There’s no reason world champions shouldn’t be making at minimum a base of $1 million per fight and the challenger $500,000 depending on their standing in the sport. Every fighter should be paid a healthy wage. You don’t see athletes in MLB, the NFL or the NBA having to get second jobs to support themselves and their families. It’s practically commonplace in MMA. A union or an association would help with getting that accomplished, but fighters should be standing up for themselves regardless and get what they deserve.
Jon Jones vs. Daniel Cormier 3
This looked to be next for both guys until Jones got paired with Smith. Cormier is still dealing with a hand injury, but he could decide to bypass clashes with Jones and Brock Lesnar and live up to his vow of retiring on his 40th birthday at the end of March.
It just wouldn’t be right, though, if Jones and Cormier didn’t square off one more time. They hate each other just as much, if not more, than Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier did. Jones may have won both fights, but questions loom over whether Jones won those fairly since he failed a drug test after their UFC 214 bout and his levels were abnormal when they fought at UFC 182.
It’s one of the few big-money affairs for both guys. The fans want it, the media wants it and the UFC wants it. Hopefully, Jones and Cormier want it as much they claim they do. Who cares if it is at heavyweight or light heavyweight? Fight at a catchweight. Give us what we want.